Seaside towns ‘urged to MOVE inland’ as climate chaos now means ‘retreat’ needed, top scientists warn


COASTAL towns have been warned they need to pick up and move inland – or risk destruction by flooding and violent storms.

Top climate scientists are now urging a global “retreat” from the “at-risk” seaside as the threat of rising sea levels grows.

Scientists have linked climate change to rising sea levels
Here’s what areas of the UK and Europe would potentially look like with a 60-metre sea level rise
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As the planet warms, the level of our oceans goes up. This puts low-lying land at risk of being submerged.

Now a group of scientists from top universities say it’s time for a “managed retreat” from the seaside.

“We need to stop picturing our relationship with nature as a war,” said AR Siders of the University of Delaware

“We’re not winning or losing, we’re adjusting to changes in nature. Sea levels rise, storms surge into flood plains, so we need to move back.”

Flooding and tsunamis are a real risk if sea levels continue to rise
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Rising sea levels creating a higher risk of devastating tsunamis
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Projected sea level rise (5 m) for Northwestern Europe – based on modelling research by Haskell Indian Nations University and CReSIS – affecting an estimated 21.7million people

Typically, residents move from coastal areas during or after a disaster.

But this significantly increases the loss of life compared to moving away ahead of time.

That’s the argument from environmental experts writing in the Science journal, who say entire towns need to move to safety.

“No matter the circumstances, moving is hard,” said Miyuki Hino of Stanford University.

“People have chosen where to live for a reason, and it is often difficult to find a place to move to that meets all their social, cultural and financial requirements.

“One major challenge with retreat is that we’re so focused on getting people out of harm’s way, we miss the chance to help them move to opportunity.”

She added: “The challenge is to prepare for long-term retreat by limiting development in at-risk areas.”

Scientists generally agree that current levels of global warming means significant chunks of Antarctic sheet ice is at risk of melting.

This would add significant amounts of water to the ocean, increasing the average sea level – and putting areas that lie below sea level at risk of flooding.

The 2017 National Climate Assessment found that a rise of 2.4 metres is possible by the year 2100.

And a 2015 study published in Science Advances suggests that if the entire Antarctic ice sheet melted sea levels could rise by as much as 58 metres – although this is almost impossible in our lifetimes.

Even with a one-metre rise, some areas of Norfolk appear to be at risk of drowning completely
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At nine metres, large areas of London appear to disappear
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At a 60-metre rise, most of the USA’s east coast appears to disappear underwater
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Earlier this year we revealed how the FireTree Flood app uses Google’s mapping tools and Nasa data to work out how sea level change would affect different areas of land.

When it comes to the UK, East Anglia is affected most severely – and most short-term – because it’s low-lying, and near the coast.

Even with a one-metre rise – which is the lowest option available on the simulator – areas of Norfolk are inundated with water.

And at the highest value of 60 metres, almost all of Norfolk is underwater, as well as large areas of the North East.

At 60 metres, Manhattan and the vast majority of New York State is also underwater.

In fact, almost all of America’s East Coast disappears below the ocean, while middle America stays relatively dry.

Large chunks of South East Asia, China, Europe and West Africa are also heavily impacted.

Of course, this map isn’t perfect, as its anonymous creator admits.

“I don’t take any account of coastal defences,” the tool’s creator explains.

“It’s obviously possible to build defences that protect habitable land far below sea level.

“I’ve got no way of knowing whether current defences (in Holland, say) are able to withstand an extra +1 metre of mean sea level.

“I imagine that the impact would depend upon how quickly the oceans rise, and how much money was available for building new defences.”

He also notes that the app sometimes shows inaccurate results for deep in-land areas that are below sea level.

Most Scots can rest easy, as even a 60-metre rise fails to penetrate the lofty Highland regions

Last year, a study published in the PNAS journal suggests that areas of the world with “higher than average” sea level rises can “expect the trend to continue” as the climate warms.

John Fasullo, of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, said the new findings are extremely important.

“By knowing that climate change is playing a role in creating these regional patterns, we can be more confident that these same patterns may linger or even intensify in the future if climate change continues unabated,” Fasullo explained.

He continued: “With sea level project to rise a couple of feet or more this century on average, information about expected regional differences could be critical for coastal communities as they prepare.”

Rising sea levels – what's the problem?

Here's what you need to know…

  • The global sea level has been gradually rising over the past century
  • Sea levels rise due to two main reasons
  • The first is thermal expansion – as water gets warmer, it expands
  • The second is melting ice on land, adding fresh water into seas
  • This has a cyclical effect, because melting ice also warms up the planet (and oceans), causing more even ice to melt and boosting thermal expansion
  • It’s currently rising at a rate of around 0.3cm per year
  • The sea is huge, so that might sound harmless
  • But rising sea levels can have a devastating effect over time
  • Low-lying coastal areas can disappear completely, even putting areas of the UK at risk
  • It can also mean sea storms and tsunamis can have a more devastating effect, reaching further in-land than they would have previously
  • There’s also an increased risk of flooding

And separately, scientists issued a warning about the risk of “devastating tsunamis” caused by climate change.

Research in Science Advances suggested that rising sea levels – caused by global warming – significantly increase the threat of giant killer waves.

Experts modelled the impact of tsunamis based on sea level increases, and discovered worrying results.

It found that rising sea levels allowed tsunamis to reach much further inland, significantly increasing the risk of floods.

This means small tsunamis that might not be deadly today could wreak havoc in the future.

“Our research shows that sea-level rise can significantly increase the tsunami hazard, which means that smaller tsunamis in the future can have the same adverse impacts as big tsunamis would today,” said Robert Weiss, a professor of geosciences at Virginia Tech.

And if you think Britain is safe from tsunamis, think again.

Recent research revealed that deadly tsunamis crashing into the UK is more common than previously thought.

Scientists believe three killer waves have hit the UK within the last 10,000 years – raising the possibility that another one may be due.

We already knew about one of these: around 8,200 years ago, the Storegga submarine landslide off the coast of Norway sparked a 20-metre high tsunami that swept across Shetland.

But experts discovered evidence of two additional tsunamis that took place even more recently.

Researchers from Dundee University and the British Geological Survey found sands on Shetland that prove two separate tsunamis hit Britain in fairly recent history.

“We found sands aged 5,000 and 1,500 years old at multiple locations in Shetland, up to 13m above sea level,” said Dr Sue Dawson, of the University of Dundee.

Scientists recently warned that waves are getting stronger, and say we’ve “underestimated” the risks of climate change.

Parts of Europe could disappear as Nasa warns Antarctica is melting 6 times faster than it was 40 years ago.

And experts think climate change could cause areas of the ocean to turn a “deep green” colour by 2100.

Are you worried about climate change? Let us know in the comments!

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